NOTE: The following ramblings are based largely on rumor and guesswork.
The latest on iPhone in China
~ Dan Butterfield – November 5, 2008
China Mobile wants no pre-publicity over “new” to be announced TD-SCDMA handsets from prominent vendors such as Apple, Nokia and HTC. Why? These new phones will be very popular and China Ministries do not want to effectively shut down the sales of the current TD-SCDMA handsets (18 of the 20 currently available TD-SCDMA handsets are made by Chinese manufacturers). Moreover, China Mobile has been given a major bogey for new TD-SCDMA subscribers in 2009 and they want to keep the momentum going … tepid as it may be.
Official announcements of the three (3) new TD-SCDMA handsets from Apple, Nokia and HTC (Android) will likely be made at the same time. The rumor making the rounds inside China is a January 2009 launch for the “new” TD handsets.
New TD-SCDMA phones rumored to be launched Q1 2009:
Despite the cone of silence, HTC/Google recently leaked their intent to make a TD Android-based handset available in early 2009. Nokia and Apple have kept the lid on any information. Just buzz thus far.
Speaking of buzz … There have been a few rumors suggesting that Apple and Nokia have substantial handset “pre-sale” deals with China Mobile. These pre-sales (for China Mobile’s inventory) may have been key negotiating points for Apple and Nokia. There are major expenses and risks associated with the development of TD-SCDMA handsets for China and both Apple and Nokia have been reluctant to dive into TD-SCDMA without a pre-sale or other assurances that they can recoup costs. The TD-SCDMA network remains a major risk for all … OEMs, China Mobile and China’s Ministries overseeing the tech/telecom industries.
All of the current TD-SCDMA handsets are subsidized by China Mobile to encourage Chinese consumers to switch over to the new high speed “China built” 3G (TD-SCDMA) network. TD-SCDMA uptake thus far has been disappointing. The most credible number indicates only 200,000 users since network launch in August.
It is no secret that China Mobile is fast-tracking plans to develop their new “China built II” superfast 4G network – Time Division Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE). By the time TD-LTE is ready (2010 at the earliest), China Unicom/Netcom will have their W-CDMA 3G network up and running and if China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA continues to disappoint and TD-LTE is behind schedule (both very possible), China Unicom will make a strong play to steal away many of China Mobile’s EDGE 2.5G and TD-SCDMA users.
It’s a fair bet that Apple’s TD-SCDMA iPhone deal with China Mobile (to build a TD iPhone 3G) is non-exclusive … In my view, this would be good news. Apple is smart enough to recognize that the TD-SCDMA network is an unproven gambit. Placing all bets on TD-SCDMA would be folly. Yet Apple cannot simply thumb their nose at China Mobile and TD-SCDMA. China’s Ministries need TD-SCDMA to succeed. Think of the deal with China Mobile as the entrance fee for doing further business in China.
There is national face to be lost if TD-SCDMA becomes China’s Spruce Goose. Having cool attractive TD-SCDMA handsets is key to stimulating Chinese consumer interest in their home-grown 3G network. The new Apple, Nokia and HTC offerings should help. HTC had no choice but to build a TD handset. In my view, Apple and Nokia had to be convinced. Part of that convincing was likely:
1. A guaranteed pre-sale of handsets for China Mobile’s inventory (these phones may be customized models with a focus on China Mobile value-added services and branding)
2. A subsidy to stimulate sales
3. Pressure from China Ministries (want to do more business in China?)
Remember the breakup of AT&T in the 80s? Like AT&T, China Mobile got too big and too powerful. As part of China’s telecom industry restructuring, China Mobile was required to pay 50 billion yuan (HK$57.06 billion) to help rivals China Telecom and China Unicom. A substantial portion of this payment (mandated by China’s MIIT) will go toward development of China Unicom’s new W-CDMA 3G network. W-CDMA is a proven world standard 3G network and is supported by the chipset in Apple’s current model iPhone 3G.
Again, Apple’s TD iPhone deal with China Mobile is most likely non-exclusive. If Apple also partners with China Unicom/Netcom, this could be a major win for the new China Unicom (the second largest wireless player in China). Continuing with the non-exclusive theme, Apple could partner with the third new 3G player in China – China Telecom. Feeding this rumor, there have been recent buzz about Apple developing a CDMA iPhone which would work on China Telecom’s network. The chipset for this CDMA2000 phone might also allow Apple to use the same iPhone on Verizon’s network in the US and abroad.
More here – October 18th post by iPhonAsia Editor …
iPhonAsia comment: There has been some buzz (flat out rumors) over Apple developing two (2) new iPhones … one loud rumor is that we’ll see a TD iPhone 3G (supporting TD-SCDMA) sometime in early 2009. The other new iPhone? Hmmm? Many possibilities … in no particular order:
1) A W-CDMA iPhone 3G for the “new” China Unicom, albeit no release may be delayed until mid 2009 as W-CDMA 3G license must be issued and network must be built out in China. Note that the current iPhone 3G chipset already supports W-CDMA.
2) A EVDO CDMA2000 iPhone for China Telecom and to broaden iPhone distribution to new markets and new carriers… ex: Verizon in the U.S.?
3) A second low-priced “customized” model for China Mobile’s massive pre-pay market (chipset supporting TD-SCDMA and EDGE 2.5 G).
4) A new model iPhone that will support TD-LTE 4G (doubtful, yet China Mobile is very keen to jump start TD-LTE in 2010 and get past their TD-SCDMA troubles)
5) Readers? … how about a few ideas … love to hear what you think
Read full post via China Trade Information > HERE